Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday reiterated comments he made last week, vowing that the United States would “follow the facts” and “demand that those responsible are held accountable,” for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi – calling it an “assault on a free and independent press,” reports The Hill.
Pence said CIA Director Gina Haspel is in Turkey “reviewing the evidence” in the case and will brief President Trump upon returning to the U.S., after which the president would decide on a response.
“We’re going to follow the facts. We’re going to demand that those responsible are held accountable,” Pence said at an event sponsored by The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a contributing columnist. –The Hill
Pence added that a fiery speech on Tuesday from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accusing the Saudis of orchestrating Khashoggi’s murder only “underscores the determination of oru administration to find out what happened here.”
“The word from President Erdogan this morning that this brutal murder was premeditated — preplanned days in advance — flies in the face of earlier assertions that had been made by the Saudi regime,” Pence said.
Pence’s comments highlight the intense pressure facing Saudi Arabia to be more forthcoming about Khashoggi’s death and on Trump to unequivocally reject the Saudi account.
Trump thus far has sent mixed messages about whether he accepts the Saudi version of events and whether he will punish Riyadh in response.
Pence refused to say what measures the U.S. might take to respond to Saudi Arabia, but said the decision would be “based upon the values of the American people and our vital national interests.” –The Hill
(If only the Bush administration had been similarly interested in Saudi Arabia after 19 of their citizens attacked the US on 9/11, or if the Obama administration cracked down on them for “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region,” or anyone cared about decades of egregious human rights violations prior to Khashoggi’s murder, but we digress)
Last Thursday Pence told reporters in Colorado that “there will be consequences” if Khashoggi was murdered, and that the US will not “solely rely” on the results of investigations organized by the Saudi and Turkish governments.
That said, Pence noted on Tuesday that the US-Saudi relationship “represents an enormously important alliance in the region … to confront the leading state sponsor of terrorism in Iran” (and to buy billions in military hardware). Translation; let’s not get too crazy over one dismembered journalist.
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